What’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
by in News

Unlike most other states, New Jersey refers to a misdemeanor as a “disorderly person” crime and felonies as “indictable offenses.” The state also classifies felonies by degrees, of which there are four.

Felony Laws and Crimes

  • First-degree crimes include murder, manslaughter, and rape; these crimes include imprisonment of 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
  • Second-degree crimes include drug, burglary, white collar, and sex crimes, aggravated arson, and kidnapping; these crimes include prison sentences between five and 10 years and fines up to $150,000.
  • Third-degree crimes include possession of a controlled substance, arson, and certain DUI or robbery offenses; those convicted of a third-degree crime face a three to five-year prison sentence and fine up to $15,000.
  • Fourth-degree crimes include any other robberies and DUI that aren’t third-degree crimes and forgery; a court can sentence someone to a prison term of up to 18 months and demand a fine of up to $10,000.

First offenders charged with a fourth-degree felony—or indictable crime—may receive a presumption for non-incarceration. The court may conclude that the person would benefit more from probation than jail time. As the felony charges grow more serious, however, the likelihood of prison time does increase. Each degree crime multiplies by a factor of 10 as the crime’s seriousness increases.

Misdemeanor Laws and Crimes

  • A disorderly person classification is the most serious; these crimes include assault, resisting arrest, possession of up to 49 grams of marijuana, and shoplifting. If convicted, a person can serve up to six months in jail and pay a fine of up to $1,000.
  • A petty disorderly classification covers disorderly conduct and harassment. It’s the lowest level crime in NJ that carries a jail sentence up to 30 days and a $500 maximum fine.

The majority of New Jersey citizens charged with a misdemeanor (or disorderly person) do not go to jail, especially if they are first offenders. If, however, the offense is a DWI (driving while intoxicated), it’s possible that you will will receive jail time.

Generally, a misdemeanor will result in 180 or fewer days in jail and a felony results in a year of jail time. Of course, those sentences also depend on the crime and the court assessment.

Since a conviction for an indictable crime (felony conviction) becomes part of your permanent record if you live in New Jersey, it can hurt your chances of finding a job, receiving a college scholarship, or even buying or renting a house or apartment. Convicted felons cannot vote, carry firearms, or obtain some professional licenses. If you hold a green card or work visa, depending on the charges, your immigrations status may also be affected.

If you’ve been charged with a felony or misdemeanor, it’s critical that you seek legal counsel sooner rather than later.

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